Anaheim, CA —It's happened to all consumers — faced with the same product from different manufacturers, they have to decide which salad/yogurt/tea they’re going to choose.

What makes them put Numi's tea in their shopping cart, as opposed to Tetley's?  Numi's is hoping it's the packaging.

The nearly 20-year-old company announced that it had created its first plant-based, non-GMO, compostable tea bag wrapper at the first Climate Day preceding Natural Products Expo West 2018.

It's a Wrap: Reducing the Climate Impact of Your Packagingkicked off the day's events. According to Lara Dickinson of OSC2 and the Climate Collaborative, creating environmentally friendly packaging is one of the top two challenges the industry faces today; the other is food waste. On average, packaging accounts for about 5 percent of the energy used in the life cycle of a food product, making it a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions. And for some products, the packaging used has an even bigger impact on climate change than the fuel used to ship it to market.

And today's biggest consumer — the millennial — realizes this.  Asreportedby WholeFoods Magazine, the Natural Marketing Institute’s (NMI) 2018 State of Sustainability in America, 16th Annual Consumer Insights & Trends report, found that today’s consumers not only want companies to be waste conscious by cutting down on packaging, but they want them to use packaging that is environmentally friendly.

But it’s not an easy undertaking. According to Prashant Jagtap of Trayak, it requires a balance between best protecting the product and not increasing the company’s carbon footprint, by optimizing the design and increasing source sustainability.  And the growth of e-commerce, and the packaging that goes with it, is another emerging problem.

Jagtap gave the audience a roadmap to sustainable packaging — companies had to first determine their goals, benchmark their current packaging, design an alternative, and then ultimately pick the design that would reduce impact.

This design is the first thing consumers see, and it can be the key to the product's success, or its Achilles heel, Deanna Bratter of DanoneWave said.  She discussed the company's Earthbound Farms organic salads, packaged in clam shells made of 100% recycled polyethylene terephthalate, or PET. "What you put in the product is just as important as what you do with the product at the end of its life cycle."  The clam shells are 100% post consumer recycled, she said, "a great end of life scenario so the product stays out of the landfill."

But not all products are recyclable, and the company has put labels on its products telling them how to dispose of them, from the containers right down to the cap. "If it's not recyclable we think it's our duty to inform our consumers," she said. "In this way we're using our packaging to connect with consumers and impact climate change."